Today is the Fourth of July, the annual day when America stops to celebrate itself. And we’ve much to celebrate – one of the youngest and yet most influential nations on the planet, we are pretty much the geopolitical equivalent of the Millennials: we came into the game early, believed we belonged, proved ourselves despite some mistakes, and now we’re sitting in the catbird seat wondering, “What next?”
It’s been a rollicking ride, to say the least. I’m no historian, but we’ve undergone quite the transformation. Once a backwater repository for people who didn’t want to be picked on anymore, we’re now the Ritz-Carlton of refugees. For nearly three centuries we’ve been the rewrite of Shangri-La; our national anthem might as well be New York, New York because if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And yet we find ourselves at a crossroads. Things have changed. We still believe certain things are true about our country, but we are also increasingly aware that the nation we live in isn’t built entirely on sunshine and big brass ones.
If America were a shiny Jeep Liberty (cause, really – what else would we be?), then we’d have to admit there’s a good bit of dirt on the undercarriage. The same is true of almost any nation.
But we feel it more than most, I think. Our mythology has always been that we were the nation that wasn’t a carbon-copy of the despotic and tyrannical days of yore; we were the nation that gave rise to the voice of the people, the nation that proved that power was not best when concentrated in the hands of a few. We stop and celebrate our independence every July 4th, we sing the song for the people, by the people, of the people, but the reality is that we have drifted far, far away from that narrative.
And it bugs us.
Some folks break out the tea bags and stockpile the ammo, waiting for the day that history repeats itself. Others push for reforms that will never come. Some just embrace it as the manifest destiny of all nations – that at some point the safety and security of all we’ve become is paramount over the rights and liberties that made us what we are. Others adopt that most modern American of attitudes: “Dude, as long as I still get wifi, who cares?”
Two hundred and thirty seven years after we told the British Empire to step off, we’re still trying to figure out what it means to be American.
And maybe that’s as it should be. Maybe the most daring of political experiments should never come to a tidy conclusion, where certain ideas and beliefs become ruts that trap us. Maybe it’s right that we continue wrestling with the soul of our nation in order not to fall into the trap of other former powers who lost their souls and then lost themselves. Maybe our greatest gift to ourselves is the permanence of uncertainty, that we rise and fall on our ability as a nation to never settle on a “right way”.
It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, if our stability as a nation rested on our instability as a culture?
I’m not a fan of everything that’s changed about our country. I look back on previous generations and lament the loss of certain of their characteristics in this day and age. But I’m also quite pleased that we now have a country where you can’t own another person legally, you can’t get away with abuse in private, and you can’t claim superiority to another person simply because you were born into privilege. Yeah, we’ve lost a lot of who we used to be, but you know what? A bunch of it needed to be lost.
That’s what makes us America – we’re constantly examining who we are in order to become who we want to be.
There will always be people who deny this, of course. They’ll insist that what makes us great is what made us great in the past, those values and behaviors that gave rise to power and prestige on the world stage. But if you look at the thread weaving our history together, if you look at the central characteristic of the American story, you see that it’s always been our propensity for change that’s made us great. We are a nation built on thrown off ideals.
Our independence is what defines us, for better or worse. Usually for the better.
So today as Americans, wherever you may be, celebrate the country that gives you the opportunity to reinvent yourself. Celebrate the nation that believes at its core to be human is to change. Light a firework or fifty in honor of our independence, not just from Britain, but from the shackles of history; not just 237 years ago, but everyday.
Happy Fourth of July, America. Hope it’s a good one.
On Monday we went swimming at my sister-in-law’s pool. It has a diving board and a ten foot deep end, so Ella was all pumped about being able to dive and jump into the pool. But once she went off the diving board, Jonathan wanted to go too. He stepped up on the board and got ready to go, but the lifeguard blew his whistle and stopped him.
“You can’t go off the diving board with a life vest on. You have to be able to swim,” he said.
Rachel talked with him and let him know that Jon could kind of tread water. The lifeguard said that as long as Rachel were in the deep end, holding onto the wall, Jon could jump off and she could then swim out and get him. That seemed fine, so Jon took off his life vest, Rachel slipped into the water, and my son stepped up onto the diving board.
And he jumped.
He made a satisfying splash, and as soon as his head came back above water, he smiled. But the panic took over because he realized he didn’t really know what he was doing. He started paddling, and suddenly, for a split second, he disappeared under the water…
…until Rachel brought him back up. She had him. He was safe. Together they swam to the pool wall and climbed out. Jon had triumphed. Everyone clapped. It was cool.
But then Jon spent the rest of the day in the kiddie pool. He was too scared to even go in the shallow end of the big pool. In fact, he actually spent most of the day huddled in my lap, sipping his juice, too scared to get near the water. The episode with the diving board just chilled him on having any more pool fun.
This morning, I know how he feels. I tried to make the move to the big time as a writer. I ordered new business cards with the blog logo. Easy. Then, I upgraded my WordPress to a premium account.
Not so easy.
Well, the process was easy. Everything went smooth as silk, got the domain that I wanted, got the site linked to it. And then I went to the part I was really excited about – customization. I was ready to make the blog look like I wanted, ready to bring my vision to life.
But the tools were limited. I don’t know what I was expecting, but essentially I paid $100 for a domain and the options to change a limited number of fonts and colors. Which, by any standard, is a steep price to pay. I immediately regretted it.
WordPress has a great refund policy, so I was able to cancel my purchase. I expect to get a full refund in a couple of days. But that still left me without my goal – a completely personalized website, with my own domain.
So I did some more research and learned that I could get everything I wanted through iPage.com for around $70. Being cheap, I signed up.
I’m excited. I can download the WordPress.org package and transfer my blog completely over to my new website. I can have personalized email at my own domain. I can open up a store and sell ebooks or t-shirts or coffee mugs if I want.
But the domain is in limbo because I made that stupid mistake with WordPress.
And immediately, I felt my stomach knot up. I felt like I wanted to vomit. Like Jonathan off the diving board, I suddenly seized with fear that I’m an idiot, I can’t do this, that I’m going to make more and more mistakes until I eventually screw my life up so bad I can never recover.
The reality is, I might have to change the domain name to something ending in .net or .org. Big deal. There’s worse mistakes.
But for me, it’s part of the process of breaking free: I’m learning that I can make mistakes – even big ones – and my life doesn’t end. Before, I felt free to make small mistakes, but never big ones. Never. It was why I never risked anything; when you risk, you open up the door for big mistakes, and big mistakes can set you back.
But they can also set you free.
I’m hoping that the domain issue is resolved in a day or so, and I can begin building my website and get it transferred over by the weekend. The neat thing is I can import everything from this blog to the new site, no content lost. The even neater thing is I have the opportunity to add personal skills that can make me more attractive as a freelancer as well.
Today was a huge step into the deep end. For a minute, I thought I was going to drown. But I know now that I can swim.
That’s a victory.
So what’s new? Well, for starters, the name has changed. Instead of Everyday Faith, it’s now the simple yet boring Jason Eric Brooks. That’s to help get higher in the old Google rankings, and also to connect my writing with me, instead of a brand that doesn’t connect to me as an individual. That sounds conceited, but it’s the way of the modern media world, and I’m getting used to it. Strangely enough, I feel more freedom to take credit for my words – I don’t need to hide behind a descriptive but impersonal brand.
I have the confidence now.
There’s also a new static landing page that gives you an idea what I’m all about as a writer. The blog is now featured on its own page, which is kind of cool. Also, you’ll notice at the top of the page the little black boxes – those are the gateway to some blog extras.
The first box takes you to my sponsor information and subscription link, as well as a calendar that shows you all of the days I’ve posted this month. The middle box (the one that looks like a chain link) takes you to all of my social media connections. You can simply click on an icon and go straight to my profile. The final box is the search feature – click on that, type in a word, and you can see if I’ve written anything on that topic.
As I mentioned, not the easiest thing in the world to navigate, but once folks get used to it, I think it’ll work for a while. Eventually I’ll get around to changing the domain, but as I’m on a budget, I’m trying not to just toss money aside.
So – that’s all for the day. I hope you don’t hate the changes, and as always, I’m open to feedback and suggestions. In fact, I need a logo for that front page, something font driven I think, featuring my initials or something. If you want to take a stab at something, I’d be happy to feature it on the page and give you credit. In the meantime, I’ll continue cleaning things up as we go along, so if you see something ugly or horrific, leave a comment here or on Twitter or Facebook, and I’ll add it to the punch list.
Personally, I’m gonna spend some time staring at the walls of this new place, fighting back buyers remorse. Talk to you later.
I’m working on a book, plus there’s family in town, so there’s not much time for blogging. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pressure of needing to blog, of keeping my online platform moving and expanding and growing.
I kind of feel like the line from this song: time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…into the future.
So I feel frantic. Frazzled. On the edge, as if there were something great inside me struggling to be born. I want to hurry that whatever it is into fruition, to find it fully formed and ready to go. But I think it’s going to take all of the time I have for that to happen, which means that instead of my circumstances changing, it’s going to be me that undergoes a transformation.
Funny enough, that was the message at church yesterday.
Good thing the Stones have the answer I need.
Here’s hoping it’s true. I could use a little time on my side.